Monte Carlo simulations of emission tomography have proven useful to assist detector design and optimize acquisition and processing protocols. The more realistic the simulations, the more straightforward the extrapolation of conclusions to clinical situations. In emission tomography, accurate numerical models of tomographs have been described and well validated under specific operating conditions (collimator, radionuclide, acquisition parameters, count rates, etc). When using these models under these operating conditions, the realism of simulations mostly depends on the activity distribution used as an input for the simulations. It has been proposed to derive the input activity distribution directly from reconstructed clinical images, so as to properly model the heterogeneity of the activity distribution between and within organs. However, reconstructed patient images include noise and have limited spatial resolution. In this study, we analyse the properties of the simulated images as a function of the properties of the reconstructed images used to define the input activity distributions in 18F-FDG PET and 131I SPECT simulations. The propagation through the simulation/reconstruction process of the noise and spatial resolution in the input activity distribution was studied using simulations. We found that the noise properties of the images reconstructed from the simulated data were almost independent of the noise in the input activity distribution. The spatial resolution in the images reconstructed from the simulations was slightly poorer than that in the input activity distribution. However, using high-noise but high-resolution patient images as an input activity distribution yielded reconstructed images that could not be distinguished from clinical images. These findings were confirmed by simulated highly realistic 131I SPECT and 18F-FDG PET images from patient data. In conclusion, we demonstrated that 131I SPECT and 18F-FDG PET images indistinguishable from real scans can be simulated using activity maps with spatial resolution higher than that used in routine clinical applications.